Nathan (also credited as Nathaniel) Brown is Oscar, one of the main characters of Gaspar Noé's Enter the Void.
This interview is exceptionally made in collaboration with Ecran Large (Didier Verdurand)
Can you tell us a little about your childhood, your curriculum, your passions : who are you, Nathan Brown ?
I am Nathan Brown and the beauty of life itself has been my curriculum from a very young age, and the ability of film to capture this beauty, and this drama has been my passion ever since. It is a way to package the ups, downs, the sadness, the joy, and completely absurd turns that come with being part of this crazy sequence of events that is life.
Let us talk about Enter the Void : did you know the cinema of Gaspar Noe before working with him ?
I had not seen Irreversible, I was not familiar with his work, and I had not met him before working with him. Having said that, if I had been familiar with his work prior to the shooting, I don't think that would have affected my choice to work with him. I was very aware after reading the script that this was going to be an undertaking unlike any of his previous projects, and I wanted nothing more then to be involved.
When and how did the Enter the Void adventure started ?
It started in October of 2007 when my agent called me with a completely unexpected appointment to read for the lead part in Gaspar Noe's new film. From that day the story has been Gaspar's story, and I am grateful to be a part of that. I am equally grateful that this story is a part of me. Amazingly, more than I can express in these words.
Can you evoke this Japan which is in the heart of the movie : what are your better memories there ?
Tokyo is an unexplainably unique experience. Because of our hectic schedule of shooting, I was not able to travel outside of Tokyo as much as I had wished, but I can say that Tokyo exists in a spectrum completely to itself. I see Tokyo as a place that is bound to no place before or after, and that its potential consists entirely of the minds which at any given moment may be drawn to it. Tokyo is one of the greatest infrastructures in the world, and it was a completely amazing experience to be part of creating a story within that wild and unsettling infrastructure. My better memories include skirting immeasurable trouble for pretending to be a Yakuza in one of the densest parts of the cities quite late at night. Meeting the many faces of Tokyo, living and being included is one of the most life changing experiences I have ever had. Just the memory of being there for that, that was my greatest memory.
The team has spent around two months in Canada. Where did you shot there and have you observed some differences between Canadian methods and Japanese ones ?
I actually didn't shoot in Canada. They did shoot a younger version of me though, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at Cannes in 2009.
What did you say to yourself when you've been ready to shoot with Gaspar Noé, knowing this director is able to do everything ? I read on the web he has taken Olly Alexander in the hot neighborhoods of Paris, in order to put him into the swing of things... Did Gaspar done the same with you ? Did you observe a special training ?
As I said before, from the day I became a part of this story, it has been Gaspar's story. Gaspar and I had the opportunity to create a working relationship that transpired into what the audience sees on screen. Through this was born a relationship that I appreciate and cherish very much. I keep with Gaspar a huge amount of trust and that is an important to me on many levels. The only special training I was given was when Gaspar suggested I read the Tibetan Book of the Dead, which out of the excitement and terror regarding upcoming task at hand, I managed to read in it's entirety... several times.
n an old paper interview, Gaspar defined Enter the Void as « an ode to the love of the life », because it's about the way of whom Oscar « tempts to hold his promises » then he's dying. It's far from Irreversible, which theme was more die-hard and desperate, because, if the daily tragedy is present, the subject is dealed in a more mature but also more resigned way. Do you share Gaspar's definition of the movie ? What is yours ?
Irreversible was real-life, and Enter the Void is a dream sequence... Its maturity deals with a subject that is viewing life as a dying ghost, and therefore its slower and it will drift in and out and it will dissolve... like life itself eventually does for every living entity. Like Gaspar said, Enter the Void is, in fact, an ode to life, and the darker possibilities that it holds, but it should leave you feeling utterly filled with hope and compassion.
What are your close and personal links with the character of Oscar and what is your relationship with notions of life and death ?
When the opportunity to be a part of this film came around I will say that I was a lot closer to the character of Oscar in my daily life than I am now. This film offered me an opportunity for introspection that I could not have ever imagined before. I, like many, have been near death at times, and this film allowed me to fully immerse myself in the notion of dying, and therefore realize the absolute beauty of living.
We all know the shooting had been particularly complex, technically speaking. What were the difficulties ? Have you felt, like Benoit Debie, the communication between Gaspar and the Japanese team was not always simple ?
The communication between Gaspar, the French crew, the Japanese crew, and the actors was all part of the story. I wouldn't imagine that Gaspar didn't know what he was getting himself into when he picked Tokyo as the location for his next story. It is, to a foreigner, a world completely unto itself, and with that you allot for a certain amount of disconnect, and unknowingness, and naivety in the filmmaking and cinematography because you are seeing a foreign landscape with childs eyes. I think it creates an authenticity to the story the audience can share with.
On average, how many hours a day did the shooting last ?
A long time...
On Irreversible, there wasn't script, juste a frame on which the team improvised. For Enter the Void, Gaspar was speaking of a long enough and over-written script with very few dialogs. Between the original script and the final result, do think there have been significant changes ? Was there a place for improvisation ?
When you are working with a film that is written and directed by the same person, which is what Gaspar did, it's only natural that a great deal of the film will in turn be improvised, and unto that it will turn into a world of its own.
When did you see the film edited and what have you felt ?
I saw a version at Cannes that was met with great disdain to the press, which was my first taste of impact of what it was that we had created. I then saw a final version at Sundance that was absolutely mind blowing, it was then that the full scale of the project finally set in, it was a very beautiful and humbling experience.
Are there any scenes shot but not included in the final cut ? Paz talked about an « explosion » scene, during the Cannes press conference...
We had shot a great wealth of film, but the scenes Gaspar chose for the final edit is what actually comprises the story, so whether or not there are scenes which are not included is irrelevant as the story was cut, and will be seen the way it has to be seen. Because of the nature of the film was so technical, I spent a great deal of time with the Editor Marc Boucrot, and I trusted that he and Gaspar would include the scenes that needed to be included.
What was for you the most difficult sequence to shoot ? The fact Gaspar favors master-shot, did, or not, ease your incarnation despite the technical difficulties of such processes ?
I was scared shitless during the entire process. However, being cremated took me to an incredibly dark space... It was really a terrifying experience, and the only time I actually questioned Gaspar's sanity as a human towards another human in such a miserable position. Having said that, I would never want to work with a director who doesn't favor "The Master Shot".
At the time of this interview, Enter the Void has been shown in around 12 great films festivals (Cannes, Toronto, Sitges, London, Stockholm, Tallinn, Sundance, Dublin, SXSW, Tokyo, Hong-Kong, Lyon...). You've been personally involved in several one. What is your better souvenir ?
Experiencing Cannes was like nothing before, and Sundance was equally as fulfilling. I'm just wide-eyed. I'm taking it all in as it comes, and I'm happy people are getting to experience the film, and whatever festival it may be. I'm just excited that people can see it.
Do you think the fact Gaspar has improved the film is the only explanation that reviews are a little better each day or is it simply because the film is good and time helps to appreciate it ?
I stopped myself from reading reviews after Cannes. People will take from it what they will, and the criticisms will be identical to any other film... simply representing the opinion whether it's good or bad, of the reviewer writing it. Like any other film, you have to just see it for yourself... But that said, it's a milestone in cinematic history. It's absolutely something so pure and real.
What do you think about the different posters and the final one with your dead body on the ground ?
Movie posters are a huge deal to me, the graphic elements of any film are a huge deal to me and I was very happy with the final poster, and hope they use it for the US release as well. A dead guy lying beneath a neon sign reading "Sex. Money. Power". That's about all that can be said.
What are your plans now ?
I hope to keep living, and I plan to thrive
Thanks to Mr Nathan Brown / Questions by Frédéric Polizine French translation : Frédéric Polizine & Stéphanie Himpe Special thanks : Didier Verdurand of Ecran Large